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Sunday, May 22, 2016

Maha Bharata - Some Hidden Gems - 3 (Yayati)

Yayati’s story is a famous one and I will let you read the full story elsewhere. Here, I wish to summarize some famous passages from this episode in Book 1, Adiparva, Section 84 onwards.

Yayati “borrows” youth from his youngest son, Puru, in exchange for his old age and decrepitude so that he can enjoy the pleasures of young age. After several years, when the allotted time was coming to an end, he realized "how his desires were still not satisfied. He found himself craving for more. He realized that satisfying the desires are like pouring melted butter into the fire – it only makes the fire more intense. Man will never be satisfied even if he is given all the produce and gems and precious stones of this earth. He will never be content. Therefore, one should give up the thirst for enjoyment. True happiness belongs only to those who give up desires for worldly things". He concludes that “More important than youth are purity in thought, action and speech”. He decides to caste off all his possessions and desires, exchange his old age back from his son and go to meditate on Brahman.

Similar ideas are expressed in other classics too. The following is from Uddhava Gita: 21:22/23. King Purvavasu, also called Ela, realizes how blind he had become because of his attachment to Urvasi. He wonders how can one get so attached to a perishable body. The mind gets agitated only by its contact with sense organs and their objects, and not by anything else. A mental wave (it may mean perceptions) is never produced by anything that has not been seen or heard of. Therefore, the mind of a man who controls his senses will gradually calm down and attain stillness and peace.

In his conversations with Indra, Yayati says: “Do not return anger with anger. Do not hurt others with harsh words. The best of prayers is to show kindness, friendliness and charity to all. Give always; never beg. Happiness and misery are transient. Do not grieve and do not get too excited. Asceticism, benevolence, tranquility of the mind, self-command, modesty, simplicity and kindness are the doors to heaven. Vanity leads to the destruction of all virtues”.

Yayati also describes the four ashramas of life. He defines muni as a mouni (observer of silence) who has withdrawn himself from all worldly objects and barely sustains his life with whatever food is available in the woods. Indifferent to happiness and misery and to honor and insult he meditates and becomes one with Brahman.

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